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Cats Hit the Road for Las Cruces
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/28/2011
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nov. 28, 2011

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Date: Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011
Time: 7 p.m. MST
Location: Pan American Center (12,482), Las Cruces, N.M.
Radio: IMG College/Wildcat Radio Network (Brian Jeffries/Matt Muehlebach) [Sirius/XM: 85/85]
TV: FS Arizona Plus (Glen Cerny/Jeff Matthews)

Click here to find FS Arizona Plus on your cable/satellite system

GAME DATA: Arizona (4-2, 0-0 Pac-12) travels to Las Cruces, N.M., Tuesday to face New Mexico State (5-1, 0-0 WAC) ... The Wildcats play its first true road game of the season, where UA was 7-4 in such contests a year ago ... Tonight’s game marks Arizona’s first trip to Las Cruces since Dec. 13, 1971, in what was an 89-73 NMSU win ... In fact, Arizona has lost its last four trips to Las Cruces and hasn’t won there since Jan. 5, 1963 ... The Wildcats are outrebounding opponents by a +4.0 margin through the first six games.

THE RANKINGS: UA slipped from the national rankings following last Wednesday’s loss. The Cats were ranked 16th in both 2011-12 preseason polls, marking the first time that UA opened the year with a national ranking since 2007-08.

ARIZONA HEAD COACH Sean Miller . . . is in his third season at the University of Arizona and his eighth overall as a college head coach with a record of 170-72 (.702) and 50-25 (.667) at Arizona ... He guided UA to 30 wins and the 2011 Pac-10 regular season championship in a run that culminated in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight ... He was named Pac-10 Conference and NABC District 20 Coach of the Year ... Appointed April 7, 2009, Miller came to Tucson after five successful years at Xavier University, where he amassed four 20-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament appearances ... His clubs won the three Atlantic 10 regular season championships (2007-09) and the 2006 Atlantic 10 postseason tournament title ... During his time at XU, the Musketeers won better than 71 percent of their conference games, including an .813 winning percentage (39-9) in his last three seasons ... Miller has made 15 trips to the postseason in his 18 seasons as a head, assistant or associate head coach (9 NCAA/6 NIT) and has an 9-5 (.643) NCAA Tournament record as a head coach ... He took two Xavier teams to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 (2008, 2009) with his 2008 club advancing to the West Regional final ... His 2007-08 team set a Xavier record for wins in a season with 30, helping him claim Atlantic 10 and NABC District 10 Coach-of-the-Year honors ... Since becoming a head coach, 17 of 18 players to complete eligibility under Miller have earned their degrees ... A standout guard for the University of Pittsburgh (1987-92), Miller was the Big East Freshman of the Year in 1988, won a gold medal on the 1991 U.S. World University Games team ... He is assisted by James Whitford, Emanuel Richardson and Joe Pasternack ... Miller is 1-0 vs. New Mexico State as a head coach.

LAST TIME OUT: San Diego State sprinted to a 21-4 lead and Arizona never really recovered in a 61-57 decision on Nov. 23. The Cats did manage to cut it to two at the break before falling behind by double figures again in the second half only to make it close at the end. While Arizona outrebounded SDSU and committed fewer turnovers, the Aztecs, led by Chase Tapley, made every play when it mattered and ended Arizona’s 22-game hoemcourt win streak. Solomon Hill led Arizona with 14 points.

SCOUTING NEW MEXICO STATE: The Aggies enter tonight’s game with a 5-1 record (0-0 WAC) following Saturday’s 81-71 win over San Francisco. On the season, New Mexico State averages 78.5 points, shoots 43.4 percent from the floor (137-of-316), 34.2 percent (24-of-79) from three-point range and 68.3 percent (170-of-249) from the line. Opponents average 66.8 points, are outrebounded by 8.3 boards per game and shoot 42.2 percent from the floor (140-of-332). Individually, four Aggies average in double-figures, led by Wendell McKines’s 17.0 ppg average. He also leads NMSU with a 9.5 rebounds per game average.

THE SERIES: Tonight’s game is the 97th meeting of the two schools with Arizona holding a 58-38 series advantage. After playing on a nearly annual basis from 1917-71, the foes meet for just the fourth time since 1971. Prior to UA’s 84-60 win on Nov. 19, 1999, NMSU had won six straight and 13 of the last 16 in the series. The teams last met on Nov. 18, 2010, an 83-57 UA win in Tucson. All-time, Arizona is 32-11 in series games played in Tucson, 25-27 in Las Cruces, and 1-0 in neutral-site games. For more series information, see page 47 in the UA media guide.

LAST MEETING: Arizona 83, New Mexico State 57, Nov. 18, 2010: Derrick Williams collected 27 points and 14 rebounds and the Wildcats got a big lift from the bench as UA rolled to the 26-point win. Trailing 9-7 just over seven minutes into the game, Sean Miller put in a whole new unit, which ignited what turned out to be a decisive 14-0 run. Arizona shot 53.4 percent from the field and posted a decisive 41-22 rebound advantage in holding NMSU to 36.5 points less than its scoring average entering the game.

AGAINST THE WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE: All-time, Arizona has a 75-48 (.610) record against schools that currently reside in the Western Athletic Conference. The Wildcats last faced a WAC team other than NMSU on Dec. 9, 2009, in what was an 83-67 win over Louisiana Tech in Tucson. For a conference breakdown, see page 51 in the UA media guide.

A PRESENCE: Freshman Nick Johnson continues to be a consistent source of production, as he posted 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals in Wednesday’s loss to San Diego State. The 6-foot-2 guard connected on 4-of-7 field goal attempts, including 2-of-4 from three-point range en route to his third double-figure scoring game in six appearances this season. His rebound and steal totals were season highs, as were his 27 minutes played. Johnson also added an assist and a block. On the year, he averages 9.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.

POINTS ARE AT A PREMIUM: Arizona has managed just 57 points in each of its last two games, marking the sixth and seventh time that the Wildcats have been held to less than 60 points in the Sean Miller era. It was the second fewest points scored at home by the Cats in the last three seasons, surpassed by a 55-point effort vs. Oregon State on Feb. 13, 2010. Additionally, UA’s cumulative 114 points in the last two games is the second lowest point total in back-to-back games in the Miller era topped (or bottomed) only by 106 combined points scored in games at USC (L, 65-57) and at UCLA (L, 71-49) on Feb. 24 and 26, 2011. On the season, Arizona is averaging 68.0 points per game.

ON THE GLASS: The Wildcats managed to outrebound San Diego State Wednesday, 40-36, marking the fifth time this season that Arizona has outrebounded the opposition. However, Wednesday’s game was the first time this year that UA outrebounded an opponent and lost. Since the start of the 2009-10 season, Arizona is 35-9 (.795) when outrebounding the opposition. Through six games to date, Arizona carries a +4.0 rebound margin, a figure equal to the team’s effort in 2010-11. Forwards Jesse Perry (9,3 rpg) and Solomon Hill (8.2 rpg) lead the Wildcats in rebound average and have combined to average 17.5 rebounds per game.

GETTING BETTER: Josiah Turner continues to show progress on the court, as the 6-foot-3 freshman guard collected his first game with double-figure points Wednesday vs. San Diego State. The native of Sacramento, Calif., connected on 4-of-9 field goal attempts and added an assist against no turnovers in a season-best 26 minutes played. On the season, Turner averages 6.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

STREAKING: Solomon Hill is currently riding a streak of four consecutive games in double figures, which is the longest such string of his career. The 6-foot-6 junior forward, who is averaging 14.3 points per game in that span, has been Arizona’s high scorer three times, including 14 points Wednesday vs. San Diego State. He’s connected on 50 percent (18-of-36) of his field goal attempts in the last four outings and is averaging 9.0 rebounds per game. On the season, Hill averages a team-leading 12.0 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

ON THE RUN: Buried within Arizona’s four-point loss to San Diego State was the fact that UA managed to post a 23-10 run that covered 11:52 of the first half and a 16-3 run that covered 11:17 of the second half, demonstrating that the Wildcats are capable of solid play covering extended periods of time. The problem, however, is finding a way to play well from the start, as witnessed by the fact that San Diego State outscored UA by a combined 48-26 in the first 10 minutes of each half on Wednesday. Slow starts have been a bugaboo for the Cats this year, as the club has trailed at the half in four of six games to date (2-2 record). That figure is half as many (8) as last season’s team managed in 38 games. In the Sean Miller era, Arizona is 39-5 when leading at the half and 11-18 when trailing.

OFF THE MARK: A quick look at the boxscore from Wednesday’s game shows that Arizona did come out ahead in a number statistical categories: UA outrebounded SDSU, 40-36, committed fewer turnovers, 13-14, and outscored the Aztecs from the free throw line, 14-5. Essentially, the Cats did everything but make shots. UA connected on a season-low 33.3 percent (19-of-57) of its field goal attempts, including a season-low 31.0 percent (9-of-29) in the first half. Through six games, Arizona is shooting just 40.8 percent from the (126-of-309) field. While it’s a little early to extrapolate data, UA’s current .408 field goal percentage is the lowest on record since the 1962-63 club connected on .385 (605-of-1,572) of its field goal attempts.

TAKE CARE OF THE BALL: Arizona continues to show improvement with its ball security, as the Wildcats are averaging only 11.5 turnovers per game in the last four games, a vast improvement over the 17.5 miscues per game in its first two games of the season. In the last four games, Arizona has enjoyed a 58-43 advantage in turnover points. Currently, UA averages 13.5 turnovers per game.

SENIOR LEADER: Senior forward Jesse Perry posted another double-figure rebound total, grabbing a game-high 11 vs. San Diego State. It marked the third straight time – and fifth in six games – that the 6-foot-7 St. Louis, Mo. native has collected 10 or more caroms in a contest. He leads the team with a 9.3 rebounds per game average, nearly five rebounds better than last season’s 4.4 rpg figure. Additionally, Perry has boosted his offensive production to 10.5 points per game, nearly four points per game better than last year’s 6.6 ppg figure.

IN NOVEMBER: Fast starts have become a regular occurrence for the Wildcats. The program is a cumulative 76-23 (.768) in the month of November over the last 27 seasons. Those numbers are even more impressive considering the strength of the opposition, as nearly 30 percent of those foes (29 of 99) were nationally ranked at the time of the game. In those contests, Arizona is 18-11 (.621).

PRESEASON PROGNOSTICATIONS: According to media members who regularly cover the league, Arizona was picked to finish third in this season’s Pac-12 Conference race. The Wildcats received 404 points and 11 first-place votes, trailing UCLA and California. The 404 points earned is the most since 2005-06, the last time UA was predicted to win. Historically speaking, Arizona has been the preseason favorite 11 times in the last 22 years.

SCORING 80: Arizona scored a season-high 81 points on Nov. 17 vs. St. John’s, topping the 80-point plateau for the first time this year. Perhaps no statistic is more telling of UA success, as the squad is 201-19 (.914) since the start of the 1997-98 season when scoring at least 80 points.

RECRUITING CLASS: The Arizona coaching staff signed four student-athletes to National-Letters-of-Intent as part of the November early signing period. Brandon Ashley (F, 6-8, 215) from Oakland, Calif., who preps at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.; Grant Jerrett (F, 6-10, 220) from LaVerne, Calif., who preps at LaVerne Lutheran H.S.; Kaleb Tarczewski (C, 7-0, 220) from Southborough, Mass., who preps at St. Mark’s School; and Gabe York (G, 6-1, 170) from Orange, Calif., who preps at Orange Lutheran H.S.; make up a class that was ranked No. 1 nationally by espn.com and rivals.com.

UP NEXT: Arizona will next be in action on Saturday, Dec. 3, when the Cats return home to host Northern Arizona. Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. MST and can be seen on KWBA-TV and FS Arizona.

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